10 particularly good penguin facts

Penguins can’t fly, but they don’t let that stop them living fascinating lives

1. There are currently 17 accepted species of penguin, all living in the southern Hemisphere. There’s debate over whether some subspecies are actually separate species, so there could be as many as 20.

2. The Gentoo penguin is the fastest swimmer, reaching a top speed of 36 kilometres (22 miles) per hour.

3. The emperor penguin is the tallest species, standing at 1.3 metres (4.3 feet).


4. Several penguin species are monogamous, reuniting with their partner at the start of every breeding season and taking care of their chicks together.

5. Penguins use unique calls to locate their mates and their chicks among the crowd.

6. A penguin’s black and white body camouflages it in the water – from below, the white blends into the sunlight, and the black makes them harder to spot against the dark depths.

7. 15 of the 17 species breed in huge colonies with hundred or even thousands of others.

8. The Galapagos penguin’s range straddles the equator, making it the only species with populations found in the northern hemisphere.

9. While most birds replace a few feathers at a time, penguins lose all their feathers and grow new ones in a single annual event called the ‘catastrophic molt’. It lasts a few weeks, and the birds have to remain on land until they’re waterproof again.

10. Penguins can drink seawater. A gland near the eye extracts salt from the blood, which then leaves through the bill or via a sneeze.


Image: Brian Gratwicke/flickr